Emotion recognition and cognitive empathy deficits in adolescent offenders revealed by context-sensitive tasks

Maria Luz Gonzalez-Gadea, Eduar Herrera, Mario Parra, Pedro Gomez Mendez, Sandra Baez, Facundo Manes, Agustin Ibanez*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)


Emotion recognition and empathy abilities require the integration of contextual information in real-life scenarios. Previous reports have explored these domains in adolescent offenders (AOs) but have not used tasks that replicate everyday situations. In this study we included ecological measures with different levels of contextual dependence to evaluate emotion recognition and empathy in AOs relative to non-offenders, controlling for the effect of demographic variables. We also explored the influence of fluid intelligence (FI) and executive functions (EFs) in the prediction of relevant deficits in these domains. Our results showed that AOs exhibit deficits in context-sensitive measures of emotion recognition and cognitive empathy. Difficulties in these tasks were neither explained by demographic variables nor predicted by FI or EFs. However, performance on measures that included simpler stimuli or could be solved by explicit knowledge was either only partially affected by demographic variables or preserved in AOs. These findings indicate that AOs show contextual social-cognition impairments which are relatively independent of basic cognitive functioning and demographic variables.

Original languageEnglish
Article number850
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalFrontiers in Human Neuroscience
Issue numberOCT
Publication statusPublished - 21 Oct 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Adolescence
  • Contextual processing
  • Delinquency
  • Ecological tasks
  • Offenders
  • Social cognition


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